Saturday, February 25, 2006

Podcast on Creativity, Writing and Science Fiction

Today we are talking with John Scalzi, author of a new science fiction book, The Ghost Brigades, and Tim Minear, Executive Producer and writer of such shows as Wonderfalls,Serenity, Angel and Firefly. Scalzi tells us how the internet has changed the way he works, writes and promotes his novels. Minear discusses his 13 hit wonders, his new projects and the aggression of girls (and talks about how violence can be a good thing!)

You can listen to the podcast here or subscribe via iTunes. You can also find a dialup version here, and there's an archive of our previous podcasts here.

As always, suggestions and comments are welcome.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

I'm Not Really Talented and Gifted, I Just Play One for the PC Crowd

Thanks to Soccer Dad for pointing out this article in the Washington Post that discusses replacing the Gifted programs in schools in Montgomery County, Maryland with magnet classes for everyone:

But this fall, educators decided to try a different approach. Instead of selecting a few hundred students for traditional school magnets, officials opened magnet programs at three middle schools to everyone.

"We've changed from labeling children to labeling services," Horn said. "It's not whether you're gifted, it's what's appropriate for you."

Oh sure, this method will really fool the kids--think they don't understand the hypocrisy of leveling the playing field? Of course they do. In my daughter's school, when the mentally handicapped kids are called over the intercom for special classes, they announce, "Will all of the 'Smart' kids come to Room 101." The whole school, from kindergarteners to 5th graders look at each other in amusement that the school is calling the handicapped kids smart. How silly is that? And how silly is it to let teachers observe kids to determine if they are "gifted" instead of allowing for some set of standards to do the sorting for them?

At two elementary schools, Georgian Forest in Silver Spring and Burning Tree in Bethesda, that means piloting an approach in which students are not formally labeled "gifted and talented" solely through traditional testing. Instead, teachers spend more time watching how individual students perform and place them based on those observations. The change doesn't necessarily mean that all students will be in the highest-level reading group, but it is a strategy for reaching out to kids who might have been overlooked in the past, said Georgian Forest Principal Donald D. Masline.

And their remedy for the lack of diversity just gets sillier:

Educators hope that the new approach will help them address why black and Hispanic students continue to lag behind white and Asian counterparts in achievement and why so few take advanced classes or are admitted into accelerated programs.

I don't see how this question is being answered by having teachers make biased decisions about which kids to place in these "gifted" programs--what does "observation" have to do with whether a child is gifted? Shouldn't there be some actual measure of what a person knows than whether or not the teacher thinks they "look smart?" This is no better than calling the mentally handicapped children smart. Wouldn't the proper way to answer the question of why Blacks and Hispanics are lagging behind Whites and Asians be to conduct research on the factors that may be causing the discrepancies and remedy those rather than setting up a phony group of gifted students whose only gift may be that they have a teacher who holds self-esteem and looking diverse in higher regard than children actually learning anything?

With such unscientific inquiry, it is no wonder more and more parents are homeschooling or turning to private schools to educate their children. I foresee that the more schools substitute "diversity" for education, the more parents will take flight from the public schools.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Podcast on War, Assimilation and Homeland Security

Back by popular demand (over 125,000 downloads and counting on each episode)--we are talking yet again to Jim Dunnigan and Austin Bay on war issues, how technology affects assimilation, and Homeland Security, including a discussion of the Port controversy. We have Democrats acting like hawks and Republicans broadcasting their independence from Bush--is it politics as usual or a real concern for safety issues? Or something else? Tune in and find out. Click here to listen or subscribe on iTunes. And there's a low-fi version for dialup users here. An archive of podcast episodes is here.

Please leave any comments or suggestions below.

When Will People Learn?

I will say it again, appeasement (and rewarding negative behavior) doesn't work--it doesn't work in the case of paying off welfare recipients for violent behavior nor does it work for paying off blubbering feminists at Harvard. Sorry to see you go, Mr. Summers, but I would personally be thrilled to see a guy like this replace you:

Summers unfortunately gave in to the feminist multiculturalists. He apologized and gave them $50 million. Such a Neville Chamberlain-like approach doomed his presidency. Once the radicals knew he could be intimidated he could never again do anything they opposed. My hope is that you have fired Summers so as to put someone in place who can and will take on the radicals now in control of your Arts and Science Faculty. I am such a person.

If made president of Harvard I would spend the $50 million Summers pledged to the feminists to instead set up a center to study genetic differences in intelligence between men and women. The center would prove that Harvard, once again, is committed to free inquiry.

...If you allow the feminist multiculturalists to win this battle then intellectual diversity in higher education will be imperiled. Consider the fate of a graduate student or untenured professor who holds "politically incorrect" views. If the president of Harvard can be fired for expressing such views, surely lesser beings in the academic world will fell compelled to self-censor or leave academia. The best hope for academic freedom is that you don't let the radical feminists win, and choose someone they will despise even more than Larry Summers.

Wouldn't Summers have been better off standing up boldly to the dyspeptic "I'm going to be sick" feminists in his audience then hightailing it out of Harvard in shame? Afterall, women with such sick stomachs don't belong in the scientific world. What will they do if their research is rejected--throw up on the reviewers? I would rather have gone out with my dignity intact and knowing that my actions served as a proper role model to future generations than to lamely leave with my tail between my legs.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Carnival of Homeschooling

The 8th week of the Carnival of Homeschooling is up--be sure and check out the post on teacher's unions and John Stossel's recent report on the state of schools.

Holocaust Denier Gets Three Years in Prison

I think this prison sentence is wrong--I hate what this guy says but I defend his right to say it. What do you think?

Update: Dr. Sanity weighs in on the free speech issue.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Failure of Feminism?

There is an interesting article in the Chronicle of Higher Education this week by Phyllis Chesler, author of The Death of Feminism: What's Next in the Struggle for Women's Freedom. The article (only available through a subscription), entitled, The Failure of Feminism, speaks volumes about why feminist academics and journalists in the US fail to support women who are truly being abused in the Islamic world:

Islamic terrorists have declared jihad against the "infidel West" and against all of us who yearn for freedom. Women in the Islamic world are treated as subhumans. Although some feminists have sounded the alarm about this, a much larger number have remained silent. Why is it that many have misguidedly romanticized terrorists as freedom fighters and condemned both America and Israel as the real terrorists or as the root cause of terrorism? In the name of multicultural correctness (all cultures are equal, formerly colonized cultures are more equal), the feminist academy and media appear to have all but abandoned vulnerable people Muslims, as well as Christians, Jews, and Hindus to the forces of reactionary Islamism.

Because feminist academics and journalists are now so heavily influenced by left ways of thinking, many now believe that speaking out against head scarves, face veils, the chador, arranged marriages, polygamy, forced pregnancies, or female genital mutilation is either "imperialist" or "crusade-ist." Postmodernist ways of thinking have also led feminists to believe that confronting narratives on the academic page is as important and world-shattering as confronting jihadists in the flesh and rescuing living beings from captivity.

It is as a feminist — not as an anti-feminist — that I have felt the need to write a book to show that something has gone terribly wrong among our thinking classes. The multicultural feminist canon has not led to independent, tolerant, diverse, or objective ways of thinking. On the contrary. It has led to conformity, totalitarian thinking, and political passivity. Although feminists indulge in considerable nostalgia for the activist 60s and 70s, in some ways they are no different from the rest of the left-leaning academy, which also suffers from the disease of politically correct passivity.

I guess for these postmodern feminists, it would be seem too "masculine" to take any real action to help the women in Islamic countries. God forbid, they might be accused of the same type of imperialistic behavior they have been blaming on the current administration. Then they might have to admit to themselves that the United States is not so bad afterall. In their mind, what a failure of feminism that would be.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Need a Welfare Check? Just Threaten to Riot

"If you reward cruelty with kindness, with what do you reward kindness?"

You would think that governments as well as people in general would understand that appeasing and rewarding negative behavior doesn't work. It's basic psychology 101--but one that not even most psychology professors understand or put to use. And apparently, this concept is foreign to many of the politically correct persuasion outside the classroom as well--for them, their feeling of moral "superiority" trumps human nature and causes liberals to turn a blind eye to justice and acts of violence.

In Bruce Bawer's new book, While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within,the side effects of the appeasement of Muslims by the Danish government are clear--as their government pumps more and more welfare money into the pockets of disgruntled Muslims, the rate of violence against "infidels" there increases.

Bawer points out that in Denmark, Muslims make up only 5% of the population but receive 40% of welfare outlays. Many of these immigrants are told by their leaders that Muslim law gives them the right to "cheat and lie in the countries that harbor them." They are told to view the benefits they receive as jizya--the tributes that "the infidel natives of Muslim-occupied countries are obliged to pay to Muslims in order to preserve their lives." And the welfare offices in Denmark can be the setting for violence--termed "culture clashes" by Danish journalists. "Some clients lay waste to social security offices and hit social workers--not out of frustration but because they've learned that bullying gets them what they want. The Danish government is not repressive; welfare workers tend to be sympathetic and eager to help. Many immigrants perceive this as weakness, and exploit it, 'tyrannizing' the social workers." The Danish solution? More PC behavior--get translators to translate not only between languages but between cultures. Yeah, that will work.

Having worked with social security disability clients for 15 years, I can tell you that human nature is the same all over. The more competent clients who had held jobs and had truly bad misfortunes happen to them were often kind and treated me with respect. Those who had never worked, been fed a steady diet of entitlement and justification of the "system owing them" from family members and society were the most abusive, often threatening me or treating me as an object to be used to get them what they wanted (not that it worked one way or another--I just wrote an objective report regardless of threats etc.). I learned to talk in a big booming voice that commanded authority and never swayed from speaking in an objective manner-of-fact tone. Once the potentially violent client saw that I was not intimidated by threats or strong language, they often settled down and cooperated. Too bad European countries haven't learned this lesson--appeasement of violence doesn't work.

I think the last paragraph of Bower's book summarizes the conflict of the PC Danish approach to conflict best:

"The irony was tragic: .......having instituted a welfare system meant to safeguard every last one of them from so much as a moment's financial insecurity, and having built up a culture of extraordinary freedom and tolerance that promised each of them a life of absolute dignity and perfect equality, postwar Dutch men and women had raised up their children into tall, strapping, healthy, multilingual young adults--
...and yet they'd turned a blind eye to the very peril that would destroy them."

Dutch cartoons anyone?

Update: Sorry, Right Girl, didn't mean to interrupt your brunch.